Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films!
Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Ralph Breaks the Internet 3D (PG)
While it’s hard to decide whether this is an affectionate sequel or a massive exercise in product placement, there’s no denying that the experience is a visual, animated rollercoaster ride, shot through with familiar Disney messages about friendship, family and self-discovery.
Now firm pals, oafish but loveable Ralph and snarky but cute Vanellope hang out together at Litwack’s Arcade, although it’s clear she’s getting a tad bored with her life. Two things are about to change that. The arrival of the Internet in the arcade and someone breaking the steering wheel on her Sugar Rush game.
A bizarre sequence of events results in Ralph becoming a viral sensation on ‘BuzzzTube’ and, ultimately infecting and breaking the Internet with a virus of himself when he thinks Vanellope’s abandoned him.
It’s all delivered at a dizzying pace, switching between set-ups, scenes and new characters and any number of annoying Pop-Ups as well as cameos galore by Disney characters like Buzz Lightyear and Eeyore.
However, while the giddy tsunami of familiar Internet icons is inspired, as with the original, the film is strongest when it plays its emotional notes, essentially a variation on if you love someone, set them free. 112 mins Also in 2D
LGWTC guidance: Get your kicks on Router 66.
Robin Hood (12A) – 21st November 2018
Narrated by and starring a twinkle-eyed Taron Egerton behind the bow, this latest take on the folk hero legend is pitched very much at the young action-movie audience, complete with slo-mo effects, street sass, superhero secret identity and a plot involving conspiracy and corrupt authorities.
Initially, it sticks to familiar territory with Nottinghamshire nobleman Robin of Loxley, a skilled archer, going off to to fight in the Crusades in ‘Arabia’, returning home to discover his lands have been seized by the Sherrif of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) who’s forcing crippling taxes on the people, prompting him to institute his own redistribution of wealth.
With John (Jamie Foxx) as his left-hand man, instructing him in the art of shooting three arrows at once in rapid succession, they decide to liberate the money and return it to the people. With Robin disguising himself to go about his thievery, Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) dubs the mysterious masked man The Hood.
With arrows that slam into walls and bodies like rounds from a high calibre automatic and Robin letting loose arrows while spinning in mid-air, the battles are frenetic and dizzyingly choreographed by director Otto Bathurst channelling Guy Ritchie. 116 mins.
LGWTC guidance: Fully fledged fun.
Nativity Rocks (U) – 23rd November 2018
Four years on from Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey? writer-director Debbie Isitt brings things back to her Coventry hometown for a new Christmas outing, this time with an all-new cast, but, as in the original, a finale in which Coventry Cathedral plays a major part.
St Bernadette’s Junior School, now with a new head (Celia Imrie) is gearing up for the annual Christmas musical, this year to be a rock opera as part of Coventry’s bid to be Christmas City of the Year. Enter Jerry Poppy (Simon Lipkin from the Nativity musical) who, having discovered Desmond Poppy is his long lost brother, has come to to find him, only to learn he’s gone to Australia. However, the head immediately enlists him as the new classroom assistant to help the reluctant Mr. Johnson (Daniel Boys) put together material to audition in front of celebrity diva guest director Emmanuel Cavendish (Craig Revel Horwood).
Of course, it’s silly but everyone throws themselves into the thing, an energetic Lipkin managing to be more endearing than he is annoying, Horwood relishing the perma-tanned panto villain routine and all the kids being as winningly cute as you could wish. Be prepared for an emotionally moving musical climax, full of messages about family, forgiveness and, yes, the spirit of Christmas. 100 mins
LGWTC guidance: It’s childish, cheap and cheesy, but it’s also cheery fun with a heart as big as its cathedral.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald (12A tbc) – 16th November 2018
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (12A)
Again directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling, this is a visual spectacular that deepens characters and ventures into some dark corners of family and politics. It takes a while to find its feet and, if you’re not up to scratch with Rowling’s world, you might need a reference guide to keep up!
Dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald plans to create a master race of pure-bloods who will rule both the wizarding and human worlds. To which end he is seeking out the mysterious Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who, unaware of his true identity, is torn between good and evil.
Meanwhile, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) busies himself looking after his menagerie of creatures, Jude Law plays a young Dumbledore, a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor and Credence is working in a carnival in Paris with Nagini (Claudia Kim). The swelling character list also includes Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), Newt’s former Hogwarts crush, and Newt’s brother, Thaddeus (Callum Turner), who works for the Ministry, and to whom she is now engaged, not to mention aged alchemist Nicolas Flamel.
The film gets on with delivering fast-paced, location switching action that involves a creature resembling a Chinese New Year dragon, a fog shrouded London, underground vaults, the Ministry of Magic archives with its cat-like demon guardians, statues that serve as magical portals and Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Both exhausting and exhilarating, it may at times confuse, but it never bores, setting up a wholly unexpected family crisis that promises a real cataclysm of a threequel. 134 mins. Also in IMAX 3D.
LGWTC guidance: Overly busy at times, but it builds to a powerful climax that leaves you eagerly anticipating where and how much darker things will go next.
The Grinch (U)
This latest adaptation, produced under the Illumination banner, returns to animation, shortening the title and giving it an R&B version of You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch but staying very close to the spirit and look of the original, albeit replacing the Seuss rhymes with new versions as well as adding a new character with Christmas-crazy neighbour Bricklebaum.
You know the story, living alone on Mount Crumpit with his loyal dog Max, the Grinch hates Christmas and decides to put an end to it by stealing all the presents and decorations from every home in Whoville, only to have his heart changed by little Who girl Cyndi-Lou. The book never gives a reason why he despises the festive season, but here, in which the character is winningly voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s because, as a young orphan, he was left all alone one Christmas and has never been happy since. It also indicates that there’s some lingering human decency in him since he’s compassionate toward Fred, the overweight reindeer he co-opts to pull his stolen sledge.
Bright and colourful with some highly detailed animation, it delivers its message about caring and kindness with joyous entertainment, the design of Whoville wonderfully ramshackle, and also throws in some sly touches for the grown-ups. You’d be a Scrooge to resist. 90mins.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG)
Based on Hoffmann’s 1816 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Tchaikovsky’s ballet has become a Christmas favourite. Now Disney takes a crack, but unfortunately, despite an impressive cast that includes Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant and Helen Mirren, it’s all visual spectacular and no heart or soul.
The set design, costumes and CGI are spellbinding and Misty Copeland dancing the ballet’s classic sequence, proves to be one of the film’s highlights. 99 mins
LGWTC guidance: A lavishly packaged Christmas present.
Aquaman (12A tbc) – 14th December 2018
The latest attempt to break the DC losing streak provides a standalone outing for the Justice League member as Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), the heavily tattooed son of a human lighthouse keeper and a mermaid queen, learns he’s heir to the throne of Atlantis. However, his brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), is planning to unite the seven underwater kingdoms to wage war on the surface world. With a star cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe and Djimon Hounsou and directed by James Wan, who knows a thing or two about staging action, it sounds and looks promising. But then, so did Justice League.
Mortal Engines (12A tbc) – 14th December 2018
An adaptation of the Philip Reeve young adult fantasy novels, partly scripted by Peter Jackson, this stars Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar as scarred fugitive assassin Hester Shaw who joins forces with Anna Fang, a dangerous member of the resistance with a bounty on her head, and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, to lead a rebellion against a giant predator city on wheels. She also wants to kill Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the Head of the Guild of Historians, who she blames for her mother’s murder.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (PG tbc) – 14th December 2018
A fun animated addition to the Spider-Man series that brings together some of the many comic book variations on the arachnid adventurer as the long dead Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) teams up with the Spider-Men (not to mention Spider-Girl and Spider-Ham) from different parallel dimensions to stop a threat to all their realities. Suggesting a similar sense of humour to the Lego and Teen Titans animations, the voice cast includes Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir and Hailee Stanfield as Gwen Stacy.
CBeebies Christmas Show: Thumbelina (U) – 15th December 2018
A one-off big screen showing of the CBeebies panto, filmed at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent prior to its TV broadcast on Dec 21. Along with additional and exclusive cinema content led by the one and only Justin Fletcher, it features CBeebies favourites like Ben Faulks and Andy Day in the adventures of a thumb-sized girl, born inside a flower, in an oversized world of woodland creatures and giant plants as she tries to find out the truth about her identity.
Mary Poppins Returns (U) – 21st December 2018
Years on from when she first came to help the Banks family, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to Depression-eras London to visit a now-grown Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Wishaw) Banks, along with Michael’s three children, and, with her magical skills, and the aid of her friend Jack, help them through a time of a personal loss and rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. The cast includes such star names as Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury and Julie Walters, plus, as a very special treat, a cameo by Dick Van Dyke, here playing Mr Dawes Jnr, the son of his character in the original Julie Andrews film. There will be songs, sweeps, animated animals and I daresay a spoonful of sugar.
Bumblebee (12A tbc) – 26th December 2018
A standalone movie for the voiceless Transformer as, set in 1983, twenty years before the first film, battle-scarred and broken, Bumblebee’s hiding out in a Californian beach town junkyard. Here, just about to turn 18 and trying to find her place in the world Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), finds what she assumes to be a broken old car and sets out fixing it up, only to quickly learn this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug. Featuring appearances by fellow Transformers Shatter (Angela Bassett), Dropkick (Justin Theroux) and Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) with John Cena as Agent Burns from Sector 7, a top secret government agency, as Charlie and her new friend seek to avoid the authorities, she discovers he’s not the only oen of his kind – and not all of them are friendly.
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.